SAVANNAH — Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday he expects an agreement with the federal government to be finalized later this month allowing Georgia to spend $266 million of its own money upfront to start deepening the busy shipping channel to the Port of Savannah.
If Georgia can sign a cost-sharing agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers before October, it’s possible dredging could get underway in the Savannah River by the end of the year, Deal told reporters after speaking to local economic developers in Savannah.
“We’re ready to start spending,” Deal said. “We can’t afford to wait.”
Savannah and other East Coast seaports are scrambling to deepen their harbors to make room for supersized cargo ships expected to begin arriving soon through an expanded Panama Canal. The Panama project’s completion date, originally expected this October, has been pushed back to late 2015. And experts say further delays are possible.
The federal government gave its final approval to the Savannah harbor deepening almost two years ago, but it got held up by an outdated spending cap of $459 million placed on the project in 1999. In May, Congress raised the price tag to $706 million as part of a sweeping water projects bill. However, the federal government still hasn’t put up enough of its 60 percent share to start construction.